Preschool Practice: Nurturing Creativity, Collaboration, Curiosity and Resilience

As a rule, young children are curious “hands-on” humans who like exploring their surroundings – and the broader world – using all of their senses. On a recent day in the Mount Madonna School (MMS) preschool classroom, the classroom “hummed” with positive, focused energy as students shaped and prepared bread dough for baking, created colorful paintings, engaged in plant care, worked challenging puzzles and chatted with one another as they engaged in creative, free play incorporating items from around their classroom.

In the “bakers’ corner” smiling, laughing students donned aprons and used small wooden rolling pins on the floury table top and cookie cutters to prepare and cut bread dough shapes to be baked and enjoyed by the class later in the day. Baking bread is a popular weekly activity enjoyed by students.  

Nearby, a classmate sat quietly focused on a sensory/practical life skills lesson by caring for a small classroom houseplant. The student carefully spritzed water from a small bottle onto cotton balls and then gently used the moist cotton to wipe off each leaf free of dust. 

“When a child notices a plant needs care, they often choose to care for it,” commented teacher Danielle Barr. “We teachers model this activity for our students and they feel very confident doing this work. When I observe a child engaged in this practice, I notice a state of focus and concentration so deep, it appears as if the child is connecting with the plant. This cultivates a singular focus as well as compassion and supports the child’s initiative in caring for the environment.” 

In a small “sound room” along one side of the classroom, students found their rhythm and a beat, playing a drum, xylophone and hand percussion instruments, while other classmates danced. 

Meanwhile, other students worked on puzzles, turning over the wooden frames to remove the pieces, and then taking satisfaction in being able – individually and collaboratively – to replace each piece where it fit and complete the puzzle pictures. 

A short time later, as those lessons concluded, the class assembled as a group in a wide circle, seated around the carpet for some relaxing breaths and yoga mudras or hand and finger gestures employed for focus and brain development.  

After several minutes of practice and different hand mudra “poses,” the energy in the room noticeably calmed, and teacher Jasmine Horan guided students through an empowering, hands-on lesson in advocating for physical space and personal boundaries. 

Using a Hula Hoop as a prop to identify a comfortable “space bubble,” the children eagerly took turns identifying their “personal” space and practicing responses in regards to physical contact. 

“We role play to learn about personal space and also about setting healthy boundaries at a young age,” commented Horan. “These tools are useful throughout our lives as we interact with each other and the world. It’s important for children to also establish a vocabulary of consent and permission around touch. Stories and role playing are fun and safe ways to explore these topics.”

With its Montessori-influenced program foundation and emphasis on outdoor learning – boosted Mount Madonna’s 375-acre forested campus – on any given school day, with a broad variation of lessons and activities, the consistent preschool “practice” is one that nurtures creativity, collaboration, curiosity and resilience. 


Contact: Leigh Ann Clifton, director of marketing & communications,

Nestled among the redwoods on 375 acres, Mount Madonna School (MMS) is a diverse learning community dedicated to creative, intellectual, and ethical growth. MMS supports its students in becoming caring, self-aware, discerning and articulate individuals; and believe a fulfilling life includes personal accomplishments, meaningful relationships and service to society. The CAIS and WASC accredited program emphasizes academic excellence, creative self-expression and positive character development. Located on Summit Road between Gilroy and Watsonville. Founded in 1979.

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